Sunday, January 22, 2012

Polenta with mushroom duxelle

After writing this morning's blog post about mushrooms and mentioning mushroom duxelle over polenta - I just couldn't get it out of my head!

So guess what I had for dinner tonight!

You guessed right!  I used crimini mushrooms and they were yummy! What did you have?  Any mushrooms?

Food as Medicine - Mushrooms

Mushrooms are great immune stimulants.  Consuming mushrooms regularly has been associated with decreased risk of breast, stomach and colorectal cancers.  In one recent Chinese study, women who ate at least 10 g of fresh mushrooms each day (about 1 mushroom) had a 64 percent decreased rate of breast cancer.

Shiitake, maitake, cremini, portabello, and oyster mushrooms all contain a compound called Lentinian which directly stimulates the reproduction and activity of immune cells.  These types of mushrooms are often used in Japan as a complement to chemotherapy to support the immune system.  Researchers at the University of Kyushu in Japan have shown that when these mushrooms are provided during or after chemotherapy, colon cancer patients live longer.

In addition to their immune and anti-cancer properties, they have also been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and contain aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase inhibitors are compounds that block the production of estrogen. These compounds are thought to be what is responsible for the preventive effects of mushrooms against breast cancer.  Regular consumption of dietary aromatase inhibitors is an excellent strategy for prevention and its been shown that all mushrooms - even white button ones - have a high anti-aromatase activity.

Recommendations for use:  add to soups; mix with other vegetables; use sliced raw or cooked in salads; oven grill them; "fry" them in a pan with a little water instead of oil; add them to beans seasoned with lemon juice and herbs.  They are also a great chewy alternative to meat.  Why not cut some up at the beginning of the week and cook them, and then you can use them throughout the week.

Mushroom Duxelle Recipe

Duxelle is a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms with onions and/or shallots and herbs. It is used as a stuffing, for sauces or as a topping.  Try making this healthy version and serving on top of polenta or mashed potato or....  Varying the type of mushroom obviously will create stronger or milder versions.  Try adding in some dried mushrooms, soaked in warm water before using, to give extra flavor.

10 ounces of mushrooms
1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine


  1. Finely chop the mushroom in a food processor.
  2. Heat 2 - 3 tablespoons water in a large skillet and water saute the chopped shallots of 1 minute.
  3. Add mushrooms and thyme and continue cooking until all the mushroom liquid has evaporated.
  4. Add wine and cook for an additional 4 minutes or until it has evaporated.
  5. Serve or use as desired.

What is your favorite mushroom recipe?
Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I love my Fitbit.

I bought it late last year.  I'd been wearing a pedometer for quite a few months and found it was quite motivating for me, encouraging me to walk a certain number of steps a day.  But then I heard about Fitbit!  And started my 10,000 steps a day goal.

If you have a pedometer, you don't NEED a FitBit - but I'm so glad I have one!

It's tiny and so secures to your clothing much easier than a pedometer.  For women, the ideal place is to clip it to the center of your bra....but it's also suitable for pockets, belts, waistbands etc.

Like a pedometer, it counts your steps but it does more.  We'd often said, as we walked up steep hills  "why don't I get credit for the uphill, extra effort bits?" - well Fitbit credits you by noting the changes in elevation as you walk.  It monitors it as "floors climbed" so you get a number each day and can set a 'floors climbed' goal too.  All this you can read on the small device display, but what I really like about it is that it wirelessly downloads/syncs your data to your computer or mobile phone.

In addition to walking, you can record your food intake online, your daily weight, your own goals, your water intake, and the other feature I like about it is that it records your sleep.  At night-time, you wear the Fitbit in a wrist band and it monitors your sleep as in how long it takes for you to get to sleep, how often you wake up and for how long, total time asleep, etc etc.  Some nights when I felt that I'd been awake for ages, the Fitbit showed me that actually I had dozed on and off and still got plenty of hours of sleep.

Oh, and of course there are "community" options with Fitbit that I haven't explored - for example you can link with other users who are your friends and see how they are doing and set goals together and the such.

The part I like best is that, as I am often on my computer each day, I am constantly reminded of my goal to walk 10,000 steps every day. If you read back to my blog post about setting goals, you'll see one of my points was about writing down your goals and having them somewhere where you can read them throughout the day.  Fitbit accomplishes this easily.  And "someone" sends you little 'badges' to your email inbox when you achieve something good - like you've walked 50 miles or climbed 25 floors.  It's very reinforcing. Yes, I don't pay much attention to the badges, but when I get a message, it is another reminder of Fitbit and my goals.

So if you need that little bit of encouragement and have a spare $99 - get a Fitbit! It's a bit of a luxury but it works for me.
Thursday, January 12, 2012

Food as Medicine - Turmeric

Turmeric is a rhizome plant of the ginger family.  The rhizomes (roots) are boiled for several hours, then dried and ground to produce a bright yellow powder.  This powder is the principal spice in Indian, Persian and Thai curries.  It is also one of the most common ingredients used in ayruvedic medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties. No other food ingredient has such a powerful anti-inflammatory effect.

The principle molecule responsible for this effect is Curcumin.  In laboratory studies, in addition to its general antiinflammatory effect, curcumin also inhibits growth in a large number of cancers including colon, prostate, lung, liver, stomach, breast, ovarian, brain and leukemia.

At the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, scientists have studied turmeric as they would any new pharmaceutical.  While there were some skeptics that such positive lab results came from a "food", progress has continued and several clinical trials  looking at turmeric as a means to prevent and treat cancer are currently under way.

But before you go out and eat a teaspoon full of turmeric (beware - it's spicy!), this food also illustrates the benefits of culinary traditions in comparison to the consumption of isolated substances.  It has been found that turmeric ingested alone, or in capsules, is very poorly absorbed by the digestive tract. But when it is mixed with black pepper - as it always is in a curry - this increases it's absorption by 2,000 percent!

Recommended usage*:

  • mix 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and a generous pinch of black pepper.  Add to soups or salad dressings or pour over cooked vegetables.  If the taste is a little bitter, try adding a few drops of agave nectar too.  
  • sprinkle turmeric and freshly ground pepper on/in hummus or other dips
*This should not be construed as medical advice. 
Monday, January 9, 2012

Try something new for 30 days

Sometimes, you just have to start!

Is there something new you've been wanting to try?  Maybe it's giving up sugar? Going vegan/vegetarian? Writing poetry? Learning a new language?  Why not give it a try for 30 days.  Be inspired by this short video from the 2011 TED conference - and just get started!

Write a comment on the blog and let us know what you are going to do!
Saturday, January 7, 2012

10,000 Steps

I achieved my goal of walking 10,000 steps every day this week.  I've been wearing a pedometer for quite a few months and counting my steps and miles. I find the pedometer really does motivate me to achieve a certain number.  I've been averaging about 8,000 - 9,000 steps a day but this week I wanted to up my goal.  My goal was therefore to walk 10,000 steps every day.   And I did it!

It feels good to have done it - now for 9 days continuously.  It's 3pm Saturday afternoon - so I still have another 7 hours today to get in a few more steps but after a long walk today, maybe there won't be that many more!   Here my are daily totals starting today:

  • Saturday - 17,500 steps
  • Friday - 10,668 steps
  • Thursday - 11,708 steps
  • Wednesday - 10,244 steps
  • Tuesday - 10,261 steps
  • Monday - 12,178 steps
  • Sunday - 10,524 steps
That is equivalent to over 40 miles in one week! I feel pleased with myself :-D

Looking at the goal I set and comparing it with my previous blog post, it fits all the criteria. 

a) It was specific - 10,000 steps a day; 
b) It was measurable - I used a Fitbit (I'll tell you more about that in another post, but it's basically a sophisticated pedometer!) to measure the steps; 
c) It was realistic and safe - I had already been walking in the range of 8,000 - 9,000 steps a day; 
d) It had a reasonable time allotment - one week; 
e) I documented my goal and saw it written down frequently by using the computer dashboard for the Fitbit; 
f) I told my hubby about it - and he joined me on many of the walks.

I'm going to keep it up!

So how was your week? Did you achieve any of your goals?  How about setting yourself one for this coming week - using the above criteria?
Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolutions and Goals

Have you made any New Year's resolutions this year, with the goal of improving your health?  Or have you tried that previously and found you don't stick to them?  Do you have some health related goals that you would like to achieve but don't know quite where to start?

The Goal Keeper by aussiegall

It is good to make health related goals and resolutions, but the key to success is focusing on one at a time, and making the goals small and manageable. For example, instead of having a goal "to be healthier" which can include so many different things, focus on one important area to start with.  Your one selected area may be to visualize a "finish line" of losing 50 lbs in weight, but now you need to work back to that very first step you need to take ie how do I lose 2 lbs this week?  What do I need to do today?

It is also important to consider priorities.  It's no good having a goal that may solve one issue in your life, but create another one in it's place, for example having a plan of action that takes time away from an important family issue. This could then result in more stress.

"Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least." 

So spend some time on goal setting.  These useful criteria may help as you set healthful goals for yourself this month:

1. The goal must be specific.
2. The goal must be measurable.  "Doing better" is not measurable.
3. The goal must be realistic and safe.  Individual limitations should be taken into consideration.
4. The goal must have a reasonable time allotted and be reasonable to attain.  If too short a time frame is chosen, this can result in stress and frustration, while a prolonged time frame can lead to discouragement, as well as loss of enthusiasm and motivation.
5. Document your goal.  Write it down and preferably pin it up somewhere where you will read it at least once a day.  Also mark it in your calendar/schedule.
6. Spend some time discussing your plan with others who may be affected. Who else is involved in this process? Who else will it affect and where do they fit in the overall picture.   These people - family or friends, can be great supporters and encouragers, and will more likely be so if they know about and understand your goal right from the start, and recognize that you have considered them too.

It can also help to work with a health coach for setting goals and prioritizing. Sometimes the goal that you have decided on, or your physician has recommended for you, can seem daunting and unreachable, but working with a trained health coach can help you decide your priorities and manageable steps along the way, all the while considering you as an individual and how your life and values fit in with it all.

"Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together".              
Vincent Van Gogh


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